Social Media and the Reality of Minority Markets

Where Marketers Can Go to Get Beyond Stereotypes and Clichés

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"The proliferation of media voices and sources enabled by the internet has allowed a more nuanced and less gangster voice of young black America to emerge, untempered by market concerns and sensationalism. Because of social media's democratized communication tools, we are now seeing a more accurate depiction of black America. Mainly because that media is actually being created by, ahem, black people. -- Raafi Rivero, Black Nerds
The authorship space of social media has fostered a cross-media rise of black skaters, black rockers, black gamers and a wildly successful new strain of nerdy hip-hop (Kanye West, Gnarls Barkley, N.E.R.D., Cool Kids). These diverse depictions and distributions of black life run counter to what we often see in mass media.

And that's just one case study. Many other minority groups within the United States have used social media to this effect: the GLBT community, American Muslims, Asian-Americans and others. Increasingly, content is made and moved by these groups, counterbalancing the content about these groups as seen in mass media. Dialogue is supplanting monologue. As a society, we are all richer for it.

So, what is the upside for marketers within this diversifying social-media space? It is a chance to engage oft-ignored minority markets. Money is still on the table. And in our current economic state, brands are seeking "new" consumer groups.

My thinking is this:

1) Except for humor, traditional advertising is a risk-averse platform. When brands aim to reach minority markets, most opt to play it safe with the tropes that blacks value "soul," Latinos love "family," Asians are "sedulous," etc.

2) Using narrow clichés is not just an affront to millions of consumers; each such instance is a missed market opportunity. While brands may intuitively understand that a black guy can love both Jay-Z and The Beatles, this multiplicity is rare within traditional advertising. Brands try to engage minority consumers using too few points of narrative and emotional entry.

3) Social media is where this engagement strategy can begin to change for the better. Why? Because social media is built upon the truth of multiplicity. As Raafi notes above, one person can now use this space to identify himself as: a gamer + a skater + black + a man + a music lover + a photographer + more. As brands understand this truth, they will rethink the narrow content used to engage minority consumers.

And given the online ability to reach niches at low cost, brands can actually put to use their knowledge of multiplicity, beginning new conversations with those consumers who've too long been considered as simply a klatch of soul claps and sombreros.

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Michael Hastings-Black is a co-founder of Desedo Films, a production company specializing in new media and minority markets. Before Desedo, he was an urban planner and a flâneur.
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